Lena on My Mind, 29 Years Later

PlayBlog   Lena on My Mind, 29 Years Later
May 12 marks the 29th anniversary of the opening of Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music at the Nederlander. The one-icon show ran 333 performances and raked in a Tony and a Drama Desk Award for the star, who died May 9 at age 92.

But Fred Walker, who co-produced the show, and Josh Ellis, who publicized it, remember the night before the opening as the singer's finest two-hours.

"Lena's performance on May 11, 1981, was never surpassed," insisted Ellis. "It was the final preview when all the important critics were in the house. She sang 21 songs and hit the bullseye 21 times in a row. Without question, that night she did the definitive 'I Got a Name,' 'Yesterday When I Was Young,' 'If You Believe,' both versions of 'Stormy Weather' and every other song in the show. 'I Got a Name,' the second song of the evening, got a standing ovation, and it only got better and better as the evening proceeded. Every single usher stayed for the entire performance. As Lulu, the head usher at the Nederlander Theatre, told us, 'My girls know something's happening tonight!' Opening night had its own very special glamour, but the final preview was Lena's crowning glory as an artist."

When the two of them rushed backstage to tell the star she had just given her greatest performance a night early, Horne smiled confidently. "Don't worry," she said in her lazy, Southern drawl, "I know what to do on opening night."

She did, too!

— Harry Haun

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